Eighty percent of Americans in this weekend’s NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll said the United States is “out of control.” The easy analysis will revolve around President Donald Trump’s handling of recent crises, but depending on your political perspective, you might think things are spiraling for different reasons.
Take Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, for instance, whose administration is out of control for the first time since taking office nine years ago. His performance has been shaky — at best — in the wake of the Breonna Taylor and David McAtee killings, and his constituents are letting him know.
WFPL reported Fischer was “confronted” by a group of young African Americans on Sunday who asked pointedly: “Why were you silent for two months on Breonna Taylor’s murder?” Another leveled a biting accusation: “You’ve been using us for photo ops for years.”
And Fischer’s recent meeting with Louisville’s police officers didn’t end well, either. Dozens of cops walked out on him because they “feel completely unsupported and disrespected,” according to Fraternal Order of Police president Ryan Nicholas.
Oof. You can feel the confidence draining out of City Hall, but at least Fischer succeeded in uniting the demonstrators and police on something.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear must feel a bit out of control, too. After months of scolding Kentuckians with his folksy-yet-aggressive “y’all can’t be doing that” edicts and enjoying high approval for it, he did a complete 180 when thousands took to Louisville’s streets in full violation of his ban on mass gatherings. After essentially confining Kentuckians to their homes for months, Beshear praised the demonstrators for their supposed adherence to anti-COVID-19 guidelines.
“You’ve got better compliance in these demonstrations than we do just about anywhere,” Beshear said. Out loud. With a straight face.
For any Kentuckian who lost a job, turned their home into a school, missed their graduation, couldn’t hold a funeral or comfort a dying loved one, put off a wedding, or shut down a restaurant, Beshear thinks the demonstrators are doing a better job than you in preventing coronavirus spread.
Beshear’s contemptuous attitude is made all the more laughable by his repeated claims to be “done with politics” in his effort to “save lives.” He sold out his entire message on coronavirus to curry favor with Louisville’s demonstrators and rioters, despite the public health scoldings he’s given Kentuckians who dared question him.
But the governor is now boxed in. If there’s a COVID- spike because of the demonstrations, Beshear’s pandering will look even more foolish. If there isn’t, a whole bunch of Kentuckians are going to ask: What were we doing for the last several months, dude?
Beshear, in full defensive mode to head off the same pressure Fischer is under, pandered further last week by announcing that he favored removal of the Jefferson Davis statue from Kentucky’s Capitol Rotunda.
If Beshear really cared about removing the “symbol that divides us,” it would already be gone. It sits outside of his office, after all, and he could have had it removed any day since taking office. (And don’t give me any static about the Historical Properties Commission. They guy just put 40% of Kentucky out of work via executive order and closed every church. If he wants to move a statue, he can move a statue.)
His father, former Gov. Steve Beshear, left it in the Rotunda for a full eight years.
But the clan Beshear saved old Jeff Davis for a political rainy day, which has assuredly come. The governor is not worried about the symbolism, of course, just the politics. (For what it’s worth, Kentucky’s top Republican, Sen. Mitch McConnell, has steadfastly favored removal since 2015, as has this columnist).
These marches have made for fascinating politics. “Defund the police” is making its way rapidly into mainstream Democratic thought and comes on the heels of Joe Biden telling black Americans they aren’t actually black unless they support him.
And many conservatives have been wondering what would happen if people marched for different reasons, perhaps ones not so en vogue with the mainstream media?
What if there were pro-life or pro-Second Amendment marches? What if Donald Trump held a campaign rally?
What would the media and Democratic political narrative be? Would they imply these righteous causes had imbued their supporters with coronavirus immunity, as Beshear and other Democratic leaders have done for police and race demonstrators?
Of course not. They would label them selfish grandma killers.
Interestingly, demonstrators at the White House this weekend were photographed with anti-Trump “bunker bitch” signs, which has nothing to do with policing or racism. I’m no doctor, but their righteous cause immunity may not be as strong as they think.
Indeed, the world feels “out of control” to many conservatives, too. We mourn and demand justice for George Floyd. We want police reform. And we want jobs for black adults, over half of whom are out of work thanks in large party to the COVID-19 lockdown. We pray for the health and safety of demonstrators who are now at risk for contracting coronavirus, which has disproportionately affected African Americansalready.
But we want one more thing: an end to the doublespeak and double standards that define the coverage and treatment of our national political discourse.
Scott Jennings is a Republican adviser, CNN and Courier-Journal contributor, and partner at RunSwitch Public Relations. He is a 1996 graduate of Dawson Springs High School.